LINCOLN, (Neb.) Whether you love them, or tolerate them, having a sibling is special.
Bethany Bradley was adopted five years ago. She now lives in a home with five brothers and sisters. She has a photo album of her biological family, but one very important picture is missing.
After Bethany was adopted her biological mother had another child. Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services didn't tell Bethany's adoptive parents. Instead Maralee and Brian Bradley say they found out on their own, after he was placed with a different family. "We were given limited information and have never had contact with the family," said Maralee.
8-year-old Danny Bradley also has a little brother he's never met. 3-year-old Carrie and 10-year-old Josh Bradley have met their little brothers, but in all of these cases the Bradleys had no luck in bringing them together under one roof. "To cry to us and say, 'Can we adopt him now, why can't we grow up together?'" said Maralee.
Brian Bradley says there are some questions he can't answer for his kids. "What's it like to be a black man in America? Or why do I have this personality quirk."
Trying to find a way to bring these kids together, Maralee found a state law which says:
"Reasonable efforts shall be made to place a child and the child's siblings in the same foster care placement or adoptive placement, unless such placement is contrary to the safety or well-being of any of the siblings." - 43-1311.02.
Under this law Maralee says her kids should be DHHS's first choice, second only to birth parents. But she says DHHS didn't agree. She says the department told her if she didn't like it she could hire an attorney. But under Nebraska law, that isn't an option either. Nebraska Appleseed attorney Robert McEwen says only four parties have the right to file motions and speak in court: a guardian ad litem, county attorneys, birth parents, and DHHS.
Which is why the Bradleys say they want LB411 to pass. The law would require DHHS to make every effort to put siblings together, before looking for more distant relatives like aunts, uncles or grandparents. The department would also have to prove they have done this by filing paperwork with the courts. "Accountability and oversite with the foster care system is good," said McEwen.
Finally the bill would allow children like Bethany to file in court on behalf of a sibling.
A public hearing is being held on LB 411 on Friday, Feb. 24th 2017 at 2 p.m. inside the capitol. The bill is sponsored by Senator Bolz.